AI and automation are a growing presence in healthcare – including the hospital supply chain. Chris Coburn, the CIO of Mass General Brigham recently said, “COVID-19 management and learnings will dominate healthcare in 2021 as they did in 2020. Among them will be restructuring and optimizing supply chains. There will be increased intelligence and AI in nearly every supply chain category,” in a recent Becker’s article. Consuming a huge portion of a hospital’s budget, most hospital supply chains still rely heavily on manual, time-consuming processes that decrease efficiency and make it difficult to truly cut and manage costs. Supply chain leaders are looking for solutions that improve operations and the bottom line.
At this year’s Annual Council of Supply Chain Executives, Olive spoke with a number of supply chain professionals about supply chain trends and needs, plus how they think about AI and automation. Here are five of the top trends we heard:
1. The supply chain stakeholder group continues to grow
From the shipping dock to the patient bedside, almost every single person in a hospital is impacted by the supply chain. And as the second largest spend after labor, it’s a financially significant component of operations as well. New initiatives and technologies therefore affect more than the supply chain department, and the stakeholder group reflects that reality.
CFOs and CIOs are joining discussions and becoming key decision-makers. Governance committees manage vendor relationships and regulatory requirements. And if the technology will impact or be used at the point of care, nurse or physician buy-in is critical for success. New solutions or processes have to work in the realities of the hospital, not just theoretically.
2. COVID-19 has created new PPE metric tracking
Personal protective equipment (PPE) has become a top supply chain concern. With the uncertainty of supply and rising demand, hospitals are stockpiling PPE, even renting or buying additional warehouse space, and meticulously tracking PPE burn rates by facility and even physician.
As nationwide cases continue to increase, close monitoring of these supplies will help hospitals stay prepared. However, much of this work is still being done manually and there are no set standards to follow. There is certainly room for more strategic analysis and management of PPE.
3. Turnover and labor shortage pressures are increasing
PPE isn’t the only supply shortage – the supply chain leaders we spoke with also cited a rising nursing shortage. What had started before COVID-19 has accelerated due to burnout and safety concerns. Leaders are trying to maximize the workforce they have, without increasing turnover.
With artificial intelligence and automation, hospitals are able to increase capacity and do more with the workforce they have in place. Olive Works frees up employee time to work on higher level strategic tasks or on patient care. And Olive Helps works alongside human employees to make their jobs easier and their work more impactful. Together, AI helps your human workforce work faster and smarter, while improving employee satisfaction and reducing burnout.
4. Predictive analytics is needed for improving care
Supply chain leaders saw predictive analytics as a huge area of potential. How can analytics predict outcomes and help us better manage our supplies? Do certain products improve outcomes? Could predictive analytics even help us better manage our employees, identifying who is at risk for burnout? Could predictive analytics help create better care plans?
While many of these ideas fall outside the realm of supply chain, Olive is already working on addressing some of these questions. For example, she is in the process of building a workflow that can assess a hospital’s current patient load to predict supply needs. As Olive continues to learn, these kinds of workflows will continuously improve a hospital’s purchasing decisions.
5. AI and automation are tackling the supply chain and use cases are continually expanding
AI and automation are already starting to improve supply chain processes, such as proactively managing backorders, quickly finding clinical equivalents, automating preference card updates, and managing POs/invoices.
But supply chain leaders want more. Two needs for the future included understanding and tracking rebates and invoice auditing for purchase services. The manpower simply isn’t there to keep track of these small things – the only realistic solution is artificial intelligence. Automation could continuously monitor rebate statuses. AI could eventually be trained to audit line-item invoices. And as the technology improves, there are endless supply chain challenges that will be tackled.
“COVID-19 management and learnings will dominate healthcare in 2021 as they did in 2020… There will be increased intelligence and AI in nearly every supply chain category.”
– Chris Coburn, CIO of Mass General Brigham
Artificial intelligence is optimizing supply chains across the country
Will your health system be the next? Olive Works and Olive Helps are working behind the scenes in more than 500 hospitals to streamline processes, increase efficiency, cut costs, and find insights that improve how your health system functions. AI-powered medical supply spend analysis, preference card standardization and advanced inventory management all help you cut unnecessary supply chain expenses and free up your human workforce to focus on your hospital’s larger goals and vision for care.
See where AI is being applied within the hospitals today and learn more about how Olive’s AI workforce can help.